Language Change

  • Created by: iona_Cb
  • Created on: 24-11-21 15:46

Timeline of English

  • Old English
    • Influenced by the Romans and the Angles, Jutes, and Saxons
    • Sometimes called Anglo-Saxon
  • Middle English
    • Begins with the Norman Conquest (1066)
    • Massive influence from French, especially in government and nobility
  • Early Modern English
    • Standardisation (e.g. Caxton's printing press, 1476)
  • Late Modern English
    • Codification (e.g. Johnson's dictionary, 1755)
  • Present Day English
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Old English

  • Often considered the earliest form of English - but was a hybrid of other languages, mainly due to invasion
    • Original languages of Britain were Celtic
    • Roman settlement in 43CE led to Latin influence
    • The Anglo-Saxon invasion meant that new Germanic languages began to take root
  • Many of today's simple words were Anglo-Saxon, including butter, chest, monk, and wine
  • There were different grammatical features:
    • Massive geographical variation
    • Case inflections
    • Agreement (gender, case, number)
    • Strong and weak verbs
    • Very flexible word order, vs today's SVO
  • Viking raids, beginning in 793CE, were influential
    • Introduced words like they, them, egg, wing, and anger
    • Led to even greater geographical variation, as some areas (e.g. Scottish islands to the West) were less affected
  • Latin was used as the language of the Church
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Middle English

  • The Norman Conquest led to French being the language of the court and administration, while Latin was important in written documentation and the Curch
  • English had a very low status, was rarely written down, and had no standard form
    • It remained the language of the populace, but had little power
    • There was diglossia - two different languages existing alongside one another, with different social functions
  • There continued to be massive dialectal variation
    • The London (East Midlands) dialect began to take precedence, as it was the centre of political, industrial, cultural, and economic power
  • Key events such as the Black Death, the Statute of Pleading, Wycliffe's bible, and English being used as the language of education helped English to regain power
  • Grammatical and lexical changes occurred:
    • Simpelr grammar, with less inflections and SVO word order
    • Pronouns retained gender/number/case
    • Spelling was not standardised
    • There were still some OE letters (yogh, thorn, etc.)
    • French lexical borrowings and Latin affixes
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Early Modern English

  • In 1476, Caxton set up the first printing press in England in Westminster
    • He used the South East dialect in his printing
    • The Belgian workers had to use slightly different spelling due to the technology they had
  • More people began writing in English - e.g. Shakespeare, King James Bible
  • Some worried about the change, and prescriptivist attitudes were common
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Modern English

  • The Industrial Revolution led to movement to cities and hence linguistic levelling
    • Social mobility increased, so speaking the more prestigious Standard English became useful
    • New technology led to new terminology
    • Education became mandatory by the 1800s
  • Some thinkers began to call for 'order'
    • Samuel Johnson published his dictionary in 1755
    • Robert Lowth wrote 'A Short Introduction to English Grammar' in 1762
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Present Day English

  • Migration, war, scientific development, and travel have massively impacted language use
  • Technological development has been very important
  • Loan words are common, especially from American English
  • English has become a global language
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Basics of Lexical Change

  • External factors (borrowing loan words from other languages), internal factors (adapting existing words), and neologisms effect lexical change
  • The following are types of lexical change:
    • Neologisms: deliberately creating a new word; not common (widget, spoof)
    • Borrowings/loan words: borrowing words and concepts from other languages; words may be anglicised (bungalow, landscape)
    • Compounding: combining words; can be open, hyphenated, or solid (long winded, user-friendly, handheld)
    • Clipping: shortening words (pram, bus)
    • Blending: a combination of compounding and clipping (moped, newscast)
    • Acronym: taking the first letters of words to form a new word (NASA, AIDS)
    • Initialism: taking the first letters of words and pronouncing each of them (CD, OMG)
    • Affixation: adding bound morphemes to a free morpheme (disinterest, marketer)
    • Conversion/functional shift: shifting a word from one class to another (text, google)
    • Eponym: using a person or company's name to define a particular object (boycott, hoover)
    • Back formation: creating a verb from an existing noun by removing a suffix (liase, locate)
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Words Falling Out of Use

  • Not all new words take hold and become codified
    • Modern technology means new words can spread much more quickly
    • For them to become part of the language, there must be need for them, or they must refer to something new
  • Words may fall out of use due to changes in attitude (e.g. 'alienism'), or changes in technology (e.g. 'stereoscope')
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Attitudes Towards Lexical Change

  • The Inkhorn Controversy (Wilson, 1552) was a response to the introduction of new words, through compounding, affixation, or borrowing from Latin, Greek, and the Romance languages
    • Wilson and those who agreed with him believed these words would 'corrupt' the English language. and were merely fashionable
  • Swift published 'A Modest Proposal' in 1712, proposing an English version of the Academie Francaise, which regulates French, in an attempt to 'fix' English
    • He disliked vagueness, shortened words, contractions, polysyllabic words, and 'invented' words
  • After publishing his dictionary, Johnson acknowledged that 'no dictionary of the living tongue can be perfect since while it is hastening to publication, some words are budding and some falling away'
  • These attempts to change language demonstrate change from above - attempts from authority to impose language change
    • Change from below occurs when language users adapt language to suit a particular need. It is subconcious
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Basics of Semantic Change

  • Words can begin to be used in different ways and aquire new meanings, known as neosemy
  • There are various processes involved with neosemy:
    • Generalisation/broadening: words aquire a less specific meaning (holiday, business)
    • Specialising/narrowing: words aquire a more specific meaning (disease, meat)
    • Amelioration: words become more positive (nice, fond)
    • Pejoration: words become more negative (lady, silly)
    • Weakening/bleaching: words become less intense (passion, literally)
    • Metaphor: words gain a metaphorical connotation (grasp, kill)
    • Euphemism: words gain a euphemstic meaning (pass, let go)
    • Polysemy: words gain multiple meanings (man, bank)
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Factors Impacting Semantic Change

  • External sociocultural factors such as cultural change, technological innovations, or social convention may affect a word's usage
    • Technology has caused 'virus' 'bug', and the 'i' prefix
    • These conditions are generally a part of education, politics, culture, and/or society
  • Internal factors include aspects of a language itself contribute to change; for example, the basic meaning of a word can be linked to some similarity, either a specific attribute or an abstract concept
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Attitudes Towards Semantic Change

  • Simon Heffer wrote for The Daily Mail about his dislike of semantic change, referencing the broadening of 'decimate' and the back formation of 'access'
  • Jenée Desmond-Harris says that the broadening of 'guys' damages women in the workplace
    • Gary Nunn responded by saying this reflects societal convention, but does not actually cause a change in attitudes
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Basics of Grammatical Change

  • The rate of grammatical change is much slower than that of lexical and semantic change
  • Some aspects of grammar were once seen as grammatical (particulary pre-standardisation), but now are non-standard
    • Dickens, Chaucer, and Shakespeare used multiple negation and 'most' with a superlative adjective
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Lowth's Grammar

  • In 1762, Lowth wrote 'A Short Introduction to English Grammar', a guide to grammar which was grounded in Latin and 'logic'
  • He established the following rules:
    • The pronoun 'thou' should no longer be used
    • There should be differentiation between 'will' and 'shall'
    • There should be regularisation between 'who' and 'whom'
    • Prepositions should be before the noun they are applied to
    • The infinitive verb should not be split
    • Multiple negation and multiple comparison are illogical
  • Many of these were rooted in Latin rules - for example, infinitive verbs cannot be split in Latin
    • However, neither can the article and the noun, but Lowth did not say that 'the black cat' would be ungrammatical
  • Lowth did distinguish between formal, written language and 'common conversation'
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Attitudes to Grammatical Change

  • In 1795, Murray produced 'English Grammar', a prolific grammar which established rules where Lowth has suggested tendencies
  • Joseph Priestly opposed this change from above, rejecting the need for an academy and saying 'the best forms of speech will, in time, establish themselves by their own superior excellence'
  • The rise in attention to grammar led to a change in written style
    • Writing became elaborate, overly rhetorical, and sometimes pompous
    • 'Good' grammar became associated with social status
    • 'Bad' language was seend to indicate low status or low morality
    • This led to a proliferation of guides, including children's books such as 'Grammar-land'
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Examples of Grammatical Change

  • The meaning and usage of 'thou' and 'you' has changed
    • 'Thou' used to be a singular second-person pronoun, while 'you' was plural
    • The Norman Conquest and French influence led to 'you' becoming a formal pronoun and 'thou' becoming informal
    • By the 18th century, 'thou' became mostly obsolete outside of religious texts and poetry
    • Some dialects have a plural second-person pronoun (e.g. 'youse' in Liverpool, 'y'all' in America, 'you guys')
  • 'To do' has become much less common
    • In Old and Middle English, it had inflected endings
    • In Middle English, it was often used alongside a main lexical verb, often in poetry
    • Now, it has 'NICE' properties: negatives, interrogatives, code usage, and emphasis
  • The '-ly' suffix on adverbs is falling out of usage
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Basics of Orthographical Change

  • Orthography refers to spelling, hyphenation, capitalisation, words breaks, emphasis, and punctuation
  • English orthography has many irregularities - see 'ough', 'colonel', and 'lieutenant'
    • Homographs are words that are spelt the same, but sound different
    • Homophones sound the same, but are spelt differently
  • The four sociocultural conditions have affected spelling
    • The Roman alphabet was introduced in the 6th century
    • The Old English alphabet was similar to our current one, without j, q, v, k, z, and with some additional consonants (e.g. thorn) and vowels (e.g. ash)
    • The amount of dialectal diversity in Old English led to very different spellings, as phonetic spelling was used
    • The Norman Conquest (1066) led to the loss of some Old English letters and the introduction of new ones, including diacritics like 'th'
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Caxton's Press

  • Caxton imported the printing press to England in 1476
  • To produce texts, he needed to establish a spelling system - e.g. standardisation
    • He chose the East Midlands dialects, as he was in London and this was the centre of iindustry, politics, and culture
  • Because his typecasters were Flemish, they did not have every English letter; they replaced thorn and eth with 'th', and yogh with 'g' or 'gh'
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Other Impacts on English Orthography

  • The Great Vowel Shift occured from the mid-14th to the mid-18th century
    • The long vowels were raised, which has a marked impact on the sound of English
    • This led to a widening gap between grapheme and phoneme correspondence
      • In Middle English, 'blood' was spelt as 'blod', but later became spelt 'blud'
  • The Renaissance led to changes in spelling, as people though it was important to establish a word's etymology through its spelling, and there were many loan words from French and Latin
    • 'Aventure' became 'adventure', from the Latin 'adventura'
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Spelling Reform

  • There are generally two kinds of reformists: those who think we should expand the current alphabet, and those who think we should retain it but address its problems (e.g. do we need both 'i' and 'v', or are 'c', 'q', and 'x' superfluous?)
  • Attempts at spelling reform have generally been inneffective
    • The English Spelling Society, found in 1908, has had virtually no impact in its attempts to make English orthography simpler and more consistent
  • Webster's reforms in America were more effective
    • Swapped 're' to 'er'
    • Took 'u' out of 'our'
    • Changed 'ise' endings to 'ize'
  • The apostrophe causes a lot of concern, so some people think we should not use it at all - for example, in Birmingham, there are no apostrophes on street name signs
    • The Apostrophe Protection Society... disagrees
    • The book 'Eats Shoots and Leaves' by Lynne Truss says people should carry markers with them to correct grammar and punctuation errors on signs in public
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Basics of Phonological Change

  • The most prevalent change in English phonology was the Great Vowel Shift (vowels becoming higher), which happened between the 14th and 18th centuries
  • Though we don't have recordings of speech from the past, written texts like grammars, schoolbooks, and poems hold information about pronunciation
    • Spellings, rhymes, and puns are particularly useful
    • Ben Jonson wrote 'The English Grammar' in 1640, with information such as that the letter 'r' used to be pronouned clearly at the end of a word
  • One major force behind phonological change is connected speech, where the continous nature of speech means neighbouring sounds influence one another
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Types of Phonological Change

  • Speakers tend to prefer to make less articulatory effort, meaning sounds tend to shift towards weaker or faster positions
    • e.g. 't' becoming a glottal stop in British English or an alveolar tap in American English
  • Assimilation is where two sounds become more alike (e.g. 'n' becoming 'm' before 'm', 'p', and 'w' - see 'green park')
    • This is usually for economical and efficiency reasons, as it makes speech production easier
  • Lenition is when a sound becomes weaker along a scale
    • Voiced plosives -> unvoiced plosives -> voiced fricatives -> unvoiced fricatives -> approximants
  • Elision is when entrie phonemes are omitted (e.g. 'the sixth month')
  • Vowel reduction is when a vowel becomes weaker
    • This means shorter, quieter, and with less-defined articulation
    • They often become the schwa vowel
  • Fortition is when a consonant gains strength, usually by becoming aspirated (see 'appear')
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Attitudes to Phonological Change

  • Sociophonetics studies the relationship between social factors and speaking style
    • Trudgill - women in Norwich tend to 'drop the g' in the 'ng' phoneme less than men, and less in formal situations
    • Labov - women and higher-class people used the post-vocalic 'r' more in New York, where it is a prestige form
  • 'Th-fronting' (where the 'th' sound becomes 'f' or 'v') is common in accents in cities such as Glasgow and London, and in MLE
    • Many people are opposed to this, partially because it tends to be younger people and people from ethnic minorities who use th-fronting
    • Jane Stuart Smith and Claire Timmins argued in 2006 that it is an important marker of sociolinguistics identity
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